Illinois managed to pick up a needed road victory last time out
to bolster its NCAA tournament resume.
While Purdue already looks like a strong postseason candidate,
another road loss could shake some its confidence.
The 14th-ranked Boilermakers will try to avoid losing a fifth
straight road game Sunday when they face a Fighting Illini team
hoping to build on a solid victory.
Purdue (19-5, 8-3 Big Ten) has won all 13 games this season at
Mackey Arena, thanks to an offense averaging 78.0 points, but
lately has been unable to forge any success on the road.
Since an 83-68 win at Penn State on Jan. 5, the Boilermakers
have averaged 63.5 points while losing four consecutive road games
– the program’s longest such skid since dropping the first five
games of the 2006-07 season.
Breaking out of this funk at Illinois likely won’t be easy. The
Illini (16-8, 6-5) are 11-1 at Assembly Hall with their lone loss
coming against top-ranked Ohio State on Feb. 1.
“It’s definitely a tough environment,” Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore
said. “Their fans definitely go crazy, and they definitely play
good when they’re at home.”
The Boilermakers won 84-78 at Champaign on Jan. 19, 2010 as
JaJuan Johnson finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Moore
scored 12. Purdue, which has won three straight in this series,
managed to overcome 28 points from Illinois’ Demetri McCamey.
Moore had 34 points on 53.8 percent shooting in two games
against the Illini last season, and led Purdue with 25 in Tuesday’s
67-53 win over Indiana.
That was victory No. 100 in the careers of Moore and Johnson,
moving the seniors within one of joining Keaton Grant atop the
program’s all-time wins list.
Moore got a number of good looks as the Hoosiers collapsed on
Johnson, the Big Ten’s scoring leader at 20.6 points. Johnson
finished with 15 points after notching at least 20 in each of the
previous seven games.
However, Johnson had one of his worst offensive performances
over the past two seasons in Purdue’s 75-65 win over the Illini
last February, finishing with five points on 1 of 10 shooting. He
had averaged 19.3 points in the previous four meetings.
Illinois is opening a daunting portion of its schedule that
includes two games against Purdue in 16 days and visits to Ohio
State and Michigan State. The Illini hope Thursday’s 71-62 victory
at Minnesota can provide a spark.
Coming into the contest, Illinois had lost five of seven and
Bruce Weber tried to send a message by having starters McCamey,
Mike Tisdale and Jereme Richmond come off the bench. Illinois
responded with a gritty win behind 17 points each from Mike Davis
McCamey, who averages a team-best 14.8 points, finished 6 for 11
from the floor after averaging 7.8 points on 27.0 percent shooting
in the previous four games.
“It’s just sad because at the beginning of the year I thought we
were all over the place, we were aggressive,” Weber said. “We had
an edge, and we lost the edge. Hopefully we can get it back.”